Park Service OKs plan for Lake, Fishing Bridge, Bridge Bay areas in Yellowstone

2012-04-25T20:00:00Z 2012-05-23T19:57:08Z Park Service OKs plan for Lake, Fishing Bridge, Bridge Bay areas in YellowstoneBy BRETT FRENCH french@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Some historic buildings would be moved and several facilities, including dorms, would be refurbished in the Lake area of Yellowstone National Park under a comprehensive management plan approved Tuesday by the National Park Service.

An environmental assessment, released to the public in February, outlined possible changes that would also affect the nearby Fishing Bridge and Bridge Bay areas.

Included was a proposal to upgrade the leaky 70-year-old water system that serves the Fishing Bridge area.

The most controversial proposal was a redesign of the Fishing Bridge RV Park, built in 1964. When the Park Service issued its environmental assessment for the area, a design for the RV park had not been finalized, but the plan estimated a “worst-case scenario” of paving up to seven acres.

One environmental group rallied its members to oppose the idea and the park received 3,770 negative comments.

Under its final plan, Yellowstone will eliminate 33 spaces in the RV park and reconfigure the design to allow bigger vehicles to pull through the campsites rather than back in.

An additional 3.5 acres of pavement would be added. A wooded corridor down the middle of the campground would be eliminated, but vegetation would be left between individual sites.

The planning document is one of several that the Park Service has developed for areas of Yellowstone in the past few years. The idea is to guide future work — “limiting the development footprint, setting design standards and outlining infrastructure projects that may occur over the next 10-15 years as funding becomes available.”

Among the projects addressed in the plan are seismic stabilization of the Lake Hotel, redesigning the structure’s rear entrance to make it more appealing and adding paths and lighting to make foot traffic safer at night.

Two shower areas would be built for visitors at Bridge Bay and the channel between the Bridge Bay Marina and Yellowstone Lake would be dredged.

Some of the historic Lodge cabins closest to Lodge Creek would be moved closer to the hotel and away from prime wildlife habitat.

The Lake area houses almost 750 concession and park employees in the summer and 18 to 20 in the winter.

The Fishing Bridge RV Park has 358 sites now and the Bridge Bay campground contains 438 sites. Lake Hotel and Lake Lodge have about 480 rooms.

The Park Service’s plan “builds upon management actions from the past several decades designed to reduce human impacts on grizzly bears in the Lake area.”

Most significantly, more than 250 cabins have been removed from the Fishing Bridge area.

Copies of the environmental assessment, Finding of No Significant Impact and final plan are available on the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment website.

A copy of the documents is available by writing to: Lake Comprehensive Plan, National Park Service, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190.

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